Revising global consumer trends for 2020 amid Covid-19

Each year, Euromonitor International compiles ten global consumer trends to watch in the coming year. Its Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2020 are: Beyond Human, Catch Me in Seconds, Frictionless Mobility, Inclusive for All, Minding Myself, Multifunctional Homes, Private Personalisation, Proudly Local, Going Global, Reuse Revolutionaries and We Want Clean Air Everywhere. According to the London-based global market research firm, Covid-19 will impact all top ten global consumer trends this year, and recently held a webinar to discuss how Covid-19 is affecting these trends. Most of the trends have little to do with coffee or tea, but two certainly influence both industries: Proudly Local, Going Global and Reuse Revolutionaries.

Describing the Proudly Local, Going Global trend, Gina Westbrook, director of consumer trends and Alison Angus, head of lifestyles research at Euromonitor International, in the February webinar stated, “Pride and power in local culture will become more sharply defined and relevant in 2020. The Proudly Local, Going Global trend captures consumer desire to adopt and appeal to a sense of individuality and growing national identity from local inspiration. There is also a growing expectation for multinationals to respond appropriately and creatively to local culture, social norms and consumer habits.”

According to Euromonitor, there are deeper ethical value shifts beyond self-expression and consumption driving this desire for localisation. Consumers (particularly younger ones) are prioritising environmental responsibility while helping local businesses thrive and reconnect with communities. The Proudly Local, Going Global trend is driving the rise of local consumer brands, especially in developing markets, going head to head with multinationals. For niche brands, regional and even global success has followed.

Multinational companies are keen on localising their production or acquiring already established local players. (This has been happening aggressively within the coffee industry. It is also occurring within the tea industry but not to the extent it has in coffee.) Per Euromonitor, localisation strategies also help multinationals better adjust to consumer needs that arise due to cultural differences or lower purchasing power.

“Being accessible, local and clean is becoming more important to survival,” said Westbrook and Angus in the original webinar.

As they noted, niche brands start their global route to success by accentuating their local credentials, keeping this at the forefront of consumers’ minds. “At the same time, multinationals are becoming more sophisticated in shaping their products to local tastes and preferences without losing their core brand identity. Tuning into the Proudly Local, Going Global trend is a compelling business strategy to win and retain consumer loyalty.”

Revising the trends outlook to reflect the impact of Covid-19, Angus said in an April webinar, that now/short term, amid the pandemic, there is an enforced retreat from globalisation, with consumers supporting local communities.

Personally, I have noticed a change in advertising from many national and multinational brands – from F&B to health and beauty care to technology to retail to automotive to insurance – during the Covid-19 crisis (on television and online) to show more compassion, concern and empathy for consumers and local communities.

In the near term, Angus noted that consumers’ safety concerns will drive hyper-localisation, while long term there will be a focus on localising business activities.

The Reuse Revolutionaries trend might be the most impacted by Covid-19. According to Euromonitor International, today’s sustainability leaders are tapping into new circular business models that aim to offer more with less through sharing, reusing, refilling and renting. “Increased environmental awareness is driving the Reuse Revolutionaries trend, especially for younger generations who are prioritising experiences over ownership. This is creating sustainable business opportunities,” said Westbrook and Angus in the February webinar. “Recycling labels are losing credibility due to a lack of knowledge about a product’s recyclability. New business models that avoid waste generation are appealing to more ethical consumers who are embracing sustainability through longer-lasting products.”

They explained that they days of businesses taking unlimited materials from nature and giving little back are coming to an end. Over 89 billion tonnes of materials were extracted from the global economy in 2018, per Euromonitor. However, only 9% of materials were being recirculated, meaning 91% were wasted, according to the 2019 Circularity Gap Report.

Recycling is no longer enough. Euromonitor revealed that Reuse Revolutionaries are now looking into ways to decrease their footprint with disruptive business models becoming mainstream. The “reuse economy,” where materials and products are reused several times, is booming. The reuse economy is critical to achieve sustainable development. This approach saves materials, prevents valuable products from going to landfills, reduces price volatility of raw materials, decreases supply chain risks and boosts resource efficiency.

According to Euromonitor’s Lifestyles Survey 2019, 60% of consumers are worried about climate change and 54% think they can make a positive contribution in the world with their purchases. As environmental awareness increases, consumers look for alternative eco-friendly products. However, more sustainable products often come with a premium price, and not all consumers are willing to pay more.

“Companies tapping into the Reuse Revolutionaries trend will need to find the balance between sustainability and convenience as consumers still rank efficacy, value and aesthetics as desired characteristics,” said Westbrook and Angus. “To do so, companies need to incentivise consumers to switch to reusable or refillable options that are both convenient and affordable. As more companies integrate reusable packaging into their product lines, this option will become less of a competitive advantage and more of a must-have.”

Coffee and tea companies have been among the leaders in offering sustainable products and packaging, while coffee shops, both independent and chain (national and multinational), have been also been actively offering reusable and recyclable cups, lids and straws. However, it is this area that will likely be most negatively affected by Covid-19 in the short and long term. For example, once the pandemic started, most coffeehouses suspended their use of reusable cups in favour of disposable ones (although many still gave consumers the discount if they brought a reusable cup with them).

In the April webinar, Angus said that now/during the crisis, consumers are rethinking green credentials — they are being more “clean than green.” In the near term, she explained that anxiety will shift consumer focus to health and safety and worrying about reinfection (hence, consumers may still favour disposable products over reusable ones). And although it may take a while, Angus said that there will be a slow return to reusable products in the long term.

But is “long term” at the end of 2020, 2021 or beyond? It is too early to tell, so as with everything else that has been impacted by Covid-19, we will have to wait and see how it all unfolds.

  • Vanessa L. Facenda, editor Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. She may be contacted via [email protected]

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